Ashland Produce Warehouse earns Oregon Organic Coalition award

Tom Marks has carved out a niche as the middleman of choice for Southern Oregon organic farmers. And the relentless efforts for nearly a decade by the founder and president of Oregon Produce Warehouse haven't gone unnoticed.

Marks' business was among eight honorees at last month's Oregon Organic Coalition Awards For Excellence.

The Ashland firm earned the Award of Excellence as an Organics Wholesaler.

"I had high hopes for solving some of our Rogue bio-region's food problems right from the get-go," Marks said. "We've made some incredible strides in streamlining the delivery of local goods."

Organic Produce Warehouse finds itself competing against larger firms, such as the Willamette Valley-based Organically Grown Co. and Canada's UNFI, but continues to carve out a niche in Jackson, Josephine and Siskiyou counties.

"The interesting thing is most of those distribution centers are located in the north," Marks said. "So the majority of products coming out of California pass us on the way to Portland or Seattle. We saw an opportunity to bring things directly to our region and streamline the delivery system."

Organic Produce Warehouse, the first certified organic food distribution center operating in the region, has encouraged organic trade through its local-first approach since its inception.

Marks, a 41-year-old Portland native, said Organic Produce Warehouse recently began delivery to more than 30 local food service companies.

"In essence we've become a one-stop shop for local food companies."

Awards were also dispensed by the following categories:

  • Processor, Café Mam;
  • Retailer, Fred Meyer;
  • Farm crops, Spring Hill Farm;
  • Farm livestock, Forest Glen Jerseys;
  • Individual organic advocate, Chris Schreiner;
  • Scientist, Dan Sullivan;
  • Organic innovator, Hunton's Farm and Camas Country Mills.

Oregon Organic Coalition was formed in 2005 to advance the development and growth of the state's organic agricultural community and trade.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at Edge.

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